So everybody complains of being tired. Life is busy, and we have pulled in so many directions these days. But where do we draw the line between feeling tired and actual fatigue?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we speak of Qi Deficiency. Qi is the vital life force, or energy of the body and mind, and of course deficiency means that there is not enough.
The general symptoms of Qi Deficiency are Tiredness, Fatigue, Weakness, etc. In particular, it is the fact that these symptoms are worse with exertion, and there may even be Shortness of Breath (which I lovingly abbreviate as SOB). The person looks pale and may have a pale tongue and a weak pulse.
Qi Deficiency is so common, in fact, that it is likely the most common syndrome that TCM practitioners (Acupuncturists and Herbalists) diagnose. But when we look more closely at a person’s type of fatigue, and other symptoms that may be occurring, we begin to differentiate into the basic types of Qi deficiency.
Internal Organ Energy Systems
Each internal organ exists within an energetic system that includes the physical tissues, the chemical and endocrine components that drive the organ, and also a mental or emotional aspect that we usually experience as arising from the mind (or the heart) but that is associated with the function (or dysfunction) of the main Internal organs.
Lung Qi Deficiency
For the Lung organ, the tissues may have been damaged due to genetics or lifestyle factors, and/or there may be an endocrine disruption in the body, which negatively affects the breathing.
Shortness of breath is the main symptom for Lung Qi deficiency, but it can also manifest as the propensity to catch a cold or a person who easily breaks into a sweat. Of course, a patient with chronic cough or asthma is said to have Lung Qi deficiency.
Heart Qi Deficiency
In the Heart organ system, palpitations occur as a natural result of a lack of Qi, or vital energy circulating within the Heart system.
Spleen Qi Deficiency
The Spleen-Pancreas system is responsible to assist the digestive function to uptake nutrients in order to form blood.
The main symptoms of Spleen Qi deficiency may include one or more of the following: poor appetite, loose stool, abdominal bloating, dizziness, bleeding disorders (such as easy bruising) and perhaps even the prolapse of internal organs.
TCM Diagnosis: Abdominal Bloating with Normal (increased) appetite
The difficulty for TCM diagnosis is that each patient may have not only one of the aforementioned organ deficiencies, but there is likely another pattern (or two!) going on at the same time.
A recent patient complained of Fatigue, Abdominal Bloating after eating, but definitely not poor appetite, and instead of loose stools, she tended towards constipation. She likely has the Spleen Qi Deficiency syndrome (Fatigue and Abdominal Bloating) but then also some internal heat which is causing an increased appetite and also drying out the stools and causing constipation.
In this case, as with many cases of Spleen Qi Deficiency, the Masters say that we need to treat both the Spleen and Stomach organ systems. Herbal formulas to Tonify the Spleen need to be balanced with herbs that gently cool and clear the internal heat and promote digestion and bowel movement.
Kidney Qi Deficiency
For the Kidney system, it is understood that Qi deficiency can manifest in 3 main ways:
The first situation is that the Kidney fails to grasp the lung Qi, and this results in the type of asthma where the inhalation is not quite as deep as it should be, with the typical panting breath of the asthmatic.
The second way in which Kidney Qi deficiency manifests is that the Kidney fails to consolidate. The Kidney system is responsible for controlling the 2 lower orifices. If there is not enough energy in the Kidney system (as naturally happens as we get older) there can be dribbling or leaking of urine, or a need to urinate frequently and throughout the night. The other (posterior) lower orifice needs to have enough energy to hold in the Bowel movements and discharge them at the correct time. If the Kidney energy is not strong enough, this may result in failure to control when the BM happens, or even incontinent diarrhea.
Other difficulties with the lower orifices may be a result of a Kidney Qi deficiency, such as excessive vaginal discharge, premature ejaculation, and even some types of miscarriage.
For children who have difficulty with bedwetting, TCM modalities such as Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine have been helpful to strengthen the Kidney Qi in order to stop the bedwetting.
The third type of Kidney Qi deficiency is more severe, and we sometimes call it Kidney Essence Deficiency. This is when genetic disorders result in slow development or lower than normal intelligence or other types of functioning. These cases are hard to treat.
In summary, everybody feels tired some (most) of the time. It is important to have your symptoms evaluated by a medical professional to get an insight into why you are feeling that way. The strength of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is that you can gain insight into your condition even if it is not severe enough to show up on any of the standard medical tests. Also, if you have been diagnosed with something, your TCM Professional can help you to understand ways to naturally strengthen your body’s Qi (Vital Energy).
I wish you the best of Health and Happiness.
Lisa Cumberland, R. TCMP